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Portland, OR
USA

I exist to help dads learn to communicate and engage with their young adult daughters.  I provide resources from my vast amounts of research and experience with dads and daughters, and this is the place where you'll find the tools you need to become the hero you've always wanted to be.

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Understanding Your Mysterious Daughter

Michelle Watson

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I often hear fathers tell me that their daughters are complicated and complex, confusing and unpredictable. Believe it or not, I have discovered that we girls are not as hard to understand as we may seem! 

My decoding strategy for you is coming to you straight from the one Man in all of history who always got it right when it came to relationships.  Of course you know who I’m talking about: Jesus. I figure there’s nothing better than learning from the best!

Here are five “easy” steps to decoding and relating to your daughter, especially during those times when things are emotionally intense.  

(And if you don’t want to read further and just want a one-step plan, I would say to be gentle, soft, and calm.  And yes, those ARE manly words, I assure you, because only a strong man can accomplish this…it’s hard!).

Here goes:  There were two sisters, Martha and Mary, and they were close, personal friends of Jesus. He knew them and they knew him. For better or worse.  

Let’s pick up the story (from Luke 10:38-42 if you want to look it up later) where Martha is overly reactive, super stressed, and basically freaking out.  

If you can relate to experiencing any of those realities in your home, listen to what Jesus (with his male energy) did to enter the fray with his frazzled female friend. 

1.  He lets her vent to Him while He listens to all of it.

Even when she dramatically tells Jesus that he “doesn’t care” (false assumptions always take place during meltdowns) she continues by crying about having to do everything “by myself.” And if that wasn’t enough, she then barks at Jesus and demands that he tell her sister to help her. Surprisingly, he doesn’t lecture but listens and essentially absorbs her intensity by being her sounding board.

2.  He says her name twice….gently and lovingly. 

There’s something calming when any of us hear our name.  And for us girls, it’s grounding for us to be spoken to by name. If you speak your daughter’s name with love in your tone and in a gentle way, she will come towards you----maybe not right away, but it is a powerful, healing strategy that works.

3.  He sits with her in her emotional reality.

Notice that he doesn’t try and talk her out of what she’s feeling or try to get her to think rationally. No lecture. No criticism.  Jesus knows that she couldn’t hear it anyway while being so worked up.  So he simply stays with her, looks at her, validates her, and puts words to what she’s feeling, calling it “worry” and “upset.”  He tenderly names her emotions. No judgment.

4.  He highlights all that is on her life plate.

As girls we are wired to multi-task.  That’s why we can talk on the phone, paint our nails, watch a show, and do homework…all at the same time!  Yet all of a sudden we reach our max and then comes the explosion.  Again, this is where we need gentle grace not power positions.  Jesus just told Martha that he knew she had “many things” going on, leading to her melt down.  How kind of him to notice.  If you validate all that is pressing in on your daughter, your words will go long and far to make her feel heard and understood. 

5. He directs her to focus on one thing.

Jesus tells her that “only one thing is needed.”  The implication is that it’s about focusing on Him as the one thing rather than all the needs around her.  When we girls get overwhelmed with the much, we need gentle, supportive guidance to take it one thing at a time.  Breaking it down into bite size pieces is immensely helpful when we’re breaking down.

Summing up:  When your daughter is melting down sit alongside her and listen to her vent, move towards her and lovingly say her name. Tell her that you understand that she is “worried and upset.”  Let her know you do see that she has a lot on her plate, and assist in helping her to focus on one thing.  

I know it’s easier said than done but these five things will make all the difference in the eye of the storm when you are there trying to keep up with her complexity.  And after the storm has passed, the main thing your daughter will remember is that you Dad were there in it with her.

Healing Hurts, Healing Hearts

Michelle Watson

A friend of mine recently told me something he believes to be true about most men. He said that rather than risk being viewed as incompetent, men tend to cover up their insecurities by acting like they know things…even when they don’t.

So that raises a couple of questions for me as one who deeply longs to see healing take place between dads and daughters. If what my friend said is true, I find myself asking:

  1. What would it take for men to be wiling to step in to learn new things they inherently don’t know?

  2. What would it take for you as a father to be willing to reach your daughter’s heart in new ways, especially when it includes the challenge of listening to her hurts, especially when those hurts are from you?

Dad, whether you have a great relationship with your daughter right now or not, I believe that you want peace and harmony. I believe that you want to mend the brokenness that may exist between you. Yet if you’re like many of the dads I’ve had the privilege of interacting with, you may not quite know how to go about making that happen.

Because my desire is to ally with your truest desire to strengthen the way that you and your daughter relate, here are FOUR PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS to help with healing her hurts, which subsequently will help to open her heart:

1. PHYSICAL SPACE: Go to where your daughter is (face-to-face if possible) with a readiness to listen, not defend, your position.

Here’s how dad Brent says it: “The physical space and relationship between me and my girls is important. If possible, I try to walk into her bedroom (her turf), and I try to place myself physically in a lower position than she is. It might sound strange, but if my daughter is sitting on her bed, I intentionally sit on the floor so she is looking down at me. I am taller than both of my girls and I never want to be in a conversation where I am looking down at her. I find if I sit down on the floor, lean back, and cross my legs, the non-threatening posture says to her, ‘I want to have a two-way conversation with you,’ instead of ‘I am here to tell you what for …’ “ 

2. EMOTIONAL SPACE: Be willing to sit with her through her emotional responses without criticism, disgust, impatience, or anger.

Here’s how 25-year old Andrea said it, “I am beyond blessed that my dad has provided for me and been there for me through thick and thin. However, we’ve never ever fully seen eye-to-eye. I think it’s partly because we’re so much alike. But more than that, if he says something is 30, I say it’s 29. I don’t know what happened, but years ago we stopped hanging out, and honestly, it was probably around the same time that he started saying ‘30’ and I would counter with ‘29’. And it was probably around that same time that I started thinking he didn’t understand me. But beyond thinking that, I believed that he didn’t want to understand.”

Fathers often tell me that they struggle to pace with their daughters through the messy process of working through emotional things. Yet I promise you that if you don’t react to her reaction and simply make a decision to repeat back to her what you hear her saying (which is called “mirroring”), you will discover that she will go through the intensity much faster and there will much less collateral damage. She will also bond more deeply with you because she will feel that you want to understand her.

3. MENTAL SPACE:  Take time to ask questions that draw out her thoughts and feelings without interrogating her or just questioning to gather information.

Here’s what 20-year old Katie had to say, “My dad has started putting his heart out on the line for me and it has meant everything to me. He wasn’t always very good at it, but I can tell he’s trying. I guess I would say that he’s now chasing me with his love and taking the time to get to know me on a personal level by taking me on Daddy Daughter Dates (we call them “DDD”). We’ve even finally talked through some of the tough stuff in our relationship. I have come to respect my dad even more than I already did, and as a result, we’ve grown closer than I ever thought possible.”

This is a daughter whose heart opened and responded positively when her dad initiated and connected with her while he courageously talked about challenges they’d had in the past. This dad was willing to stay engaged in a hard conversation (which involved talking and listening) in order to connect with his daughter’s heart. I guess you could say that the meeting of their minds led to the meeting of their hearts.

4. SPIRITUAL SPACE: Be willing to push through your potential discomfort and initiate praying with her about things weighing on her.

Here’s how 15-year old Lexi said it, “I know my dad isn’t as comfortable with the God stuff like my mom is, but he’s started praying with me at night and I love it. It means so much that he comes in and sits on my bed, holds my hand, and then says a prayer over me before I go to sleep. He just started doing it and though I’d feel awkward telling him this, it’s making a big difference. It makes me feel protected…and special.”

Dad, the truth is that God has given you a daughter to facilitate your own personal growth. So as your love for her pushes you out of your comfort zone, let today be a day you choose to move into her space in one of these four areas---physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual.

Because a girl with a healed heart will open it to the world around her…and she’ll always know that her dad helped make it happen.

Dads are Thermostats, not Thermometers: Lessons from a Military Dad

Michelle Watson

Jackson Drumgoole is a field grade Army officer and the senior force management advisor to the Commanding General of the 7th Infantry Division on Joint Base Lewis McChord. Today he shares two of his top goals as a father of three girls.

As a dad with three daughters - one 12-year-old and two 9-year-olds - I am learning as I go, just like you. And having been in the Army now for 22 years, I find that the learning process for me as a father looks a lot like life in the military with a mix of challenges and defeats, successes and victories.

I know as fathers it’s easy to bring home the stress of our jobs, even though we know that it never bears positive dividends when we do. Here are a couple of proactive strategies I’ve found that help to support putting my love for my girls into action.

This first goal focuses on my interactions with them while the second centers on me.

1. Divide and comfort vs. divide and conquer

I have discovered that when my pre-teen "snaps" or acts condescending towards her younger siblings in my presence I address it immediately. Oftentimes, I make sharp corrections in order to deescalate the situation, which typically goes like this,

“Honey...is that your best response?”
“Does that sound like something that I or your mother would say or do?”
“NO-DUMPING-BUCKETS!”

Everyone in the house already knows that this means to never intentionally demean another person. We are constantly teaching respect, honor, and esteem in our home during times of peace.  

Nevertheless, at the first opportunity, I separate my little ladies for "age appropriate" counseling, comforting, and family reconciliation. What's so interesting for me is learning how well they each articulate their desire to be respected by the other siblings.‬

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My wife and I have laid a tremendous amount of groundwork, as a married couple of 15 years, in modeling proper conflict management. We also stress the importance of maintaining family integrity and respect.

Additionally, because my two 9-year-old daughters so admire their big sister and desire to be valued and respected by her as a peer, I simply use the power of the word “remember.” When interacting with my 12-year-old, I may say,

"Do you remember how you felt when you were 9 years old and...”

This automatically shifts her from a defensive posture and places her in a mentoring role. When interacting with my 9-year-olds, I may say,

"Remember, you girls will be pre-teens very soon and...”

This gives them a sense of hope, and they immediately start giggling and celebrating with youthful optimism.

I must also remember that these little ones are simply flesh and blood looking to be accepted, seeking to be adored, and longing to be appreciated. It is my honor to be able to provide that for them.

My heart’s desire, as a father, is to foster an atmosphere of love, respect, and cohesion while creating amazing memories for my children. It is essential that each of them know that I am here to not only protect them physically, but emotionally as well.

2. Pull over

After a long stressful day at work, I so look forward to jumping in my car, turning on a podcast or favorite song and getting home as quickly as possible. There is always so much on my mind and it seems impossible to turn off: deadlines, presentations, the next “thing to do,” questions, doubts, things to coordinate, things to uncoordinate…my head is spinning just thinking about it and I know that I am not alone.

I often find myself taking my stress home and downloading on unsuspecting loved ones. What used to be an everyday routine family reunion when I came home, turned into a run-for-cover-retreat event for the kiddos. For my family’s sake, I found something helpful that I would love to share. It’s very simple and takes as long or as short as you’d like. 

Simply pull the car over. 

David Code, author of Kids Pick Up On Everything: How Parental Stress Is Toxic To Kids, suggests the most critical thing that we transmit to our kids is not our declaration of love, but to provide them with a sense of calm and the absence of stress. Code suggests that stress causes our little ones to accommodate for these vague senses of impending danger which impede normal brain development. 

Code claims that in the famous rat experiments, what’s being transmitted from mother to pup is not love, it’s peace: “By spending a lot of time grooming her pups, the mother rat is saying to them, ‘times are so good and predator-and stress-free that I have lots of time to lick you guys.’” The same reasoning applies to dads, minus the licking.

This is a part of our protection and preparing plan. Code recommends creating calm around them so that they feel no sense of danger.  

Now instead of going straight home, I’ve found that it helps to:

  • pull over and decompress

  • put things in perspective

  • walk into the house creating an atmosphere of calm, safety, peace, and protection.

Proverbs 15:4 reminds us that the soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. 

Remember Dads, we are thermostats not thermometers.

Be the First

Michelle Watson

You were the first man to…

  • hold her hand and win her heart

  • give her a kiss and snuggle her close

  • read a bedtime story and tuck her in bed

  • wipe her tears and calm her fears

  • save the day and scare the boogey man away

  • teach her to ride a bike and throw a ball

  • lead by example, working hard to provide

  • treat her like a lady, giving respect

  • love her for being uniquely her

  • treasure her, the apple of your eye

All of these things are solid and good, necessary and wonderful, essential and positive.

But it can’t stop there---especially as she matures. Here are a few ways to grow right along with her:

Are you now the first man to…

  • say you’re sorry when you’ve hurt her heart

  • admit fault when you’ve been harsh

  • humble yourself, asking her to forgive you

  • soften your tone before she softens hers

  • listen to her when she’s had a hard day

  • have her back when she needs support

  • believe in her when her friends betray

  • embrace her after a guy breaks her heart

  • hug her and hold her and dry her tears

  • go the extra mile when she has a need

  • extend grace like has been done to you

  • pursue time with her and engage her heart

Dad, you were her first love and that will always be true. 

And now you have an opportunity to keep the first love theme going by being the first to model kindness, forgiveness, grace, and compassion. Let her know by word and deed that she can always run to you because you’ll always be there.

Why not choose one thing off this list of firsts so you can more proactively put your heart of love for your daughter into action today.

Why not be the first to initiate and lead while making that change to enhance your relationship with your daughter.

Better yet, why not be the first to write to tell me about it at drmichellewatson@gmail.com. I always love hearing from you.

Who’s going to be first?!

An Open Letter to Dads of Daughters

Michelle Watson

On this Father’s Day weekend, I want to give you a gift from my heart to yours…a gift of words. (I know that probably isn’t exactly your first choice, and you’d much prefer a paddle or a fitbit, but this is the best I can do from afar!). I want to begin with some validation and encouragement (just in case you don’t hear it enough!), and then end with a challenge.

As a father, you no doubt have a lot of weight on your shoulders and I’m guessing that you often feel overwhelmed with all that’s expected of you, even though at times you try to ignore the intensity and immensity of that reality. (I know this because many of you have trusted me enough to tell me what this is like for you).

And much of the time you find it easier to push away the discomfort of facing your own inadequacy so that you don’t have to sit in the space of admitting that it might actually be true  that you’re not enough.

But if you peel back the layers and allow yourself to be honest, even vulnerable, you’ll discover that every other father is feeling the exact same way---with a sense of being less than competent, at least when it comes to relationships. Perhaps it’s most noticeable when the women in your life say they need more from you or point out areas of ineptness. And that’s when you find yourself falling into a pattern of slinking back into your shell (or, as author John Gray says, into your cave) to find safety from the perceived attack.

But dad, you weren’t made to shrink back and hide. That’s not where you thrive. You were created to pursue and conquer, to hunt and gather. The truth is that you’re at your best when you’re taking action while proving to yourself and the world around you that you have what it takes to courageously go after the things--and people--you love and believe in.

So here you are, living each day with a wealth of experiential knowledge, some of it amazing, and some of it painfully debilitating. Yet all of it has brought you to where you are today, shaping the way you see yourself…and everyone around you. And it’s out of the overflow of all those experiences that you parent your daughter.

Now here’s where I’m going to go a bit deeper by addressing the “painfully debilitating” part.

Those devastating experiences, when left unhealed, lead you to believe that you don’t have it in you to live any differently or respond in ways other than the hand you were dealt. Those wounding interactions have left you stuck, which then have you repeating unhealthy relational patterns that really don’t work for you---or your daughter, for that matter.

Sadly, I meet too many deflated men who have lost their drive and ambition, especially when it comes to pursuing relationships. Somewhere along the way they’ve succumbed to the lie that they can’t be more than their history or their failures while believing that they’re destined to repeat mistakes that were modeled by their fathers.

Truthfully, this whole way of thinking and interpersonal relating breaks my heart because I see men who have shrunk back while using self-protective strategies so as not to be hurt again, usually like they were as kids. But those strategies create distance between them and the ones who call him “dad” while also keeping their offspring from reaping the benefits of being loved by the one man whose opinion matters most.

To make matters worse, instead of rising up to meet the challenges of fighting to maintain close relationships, men with these defaults too easily resign themselves to a position of impotence rather than being valiant pursuers and initiators, traits that I believe God created all men to embody in their DNA.

You see, when a father steps back, removes his armor, concedes before engaging, and walks away (literally or figuratively---such as when he is there physically but not emotionally), not only is he deflated, but so are his kids. Further, something disastrous happens inside of him when he believes that he doesn’t matter and instead defers to their mom. That’s when something inside him starts to atrophy.

From observing men these past seven years since founding The Abba Project, I’ve noticed that something begins to die in a man when he believes that he can’t rise up, change, make a difference, or lead his family. Even this past weekend I talked with a dad who said he’s a terrible father and seemed resigned to that fact. I literally stood in front of him and wept. Yes, it was awkward for a minute or two, but my heart was breaking for his children…and for him…because it seemed like he was believing a lie that his story can’t be rewritten at this point in his life. 

So what do you do if you didn’t get what you needed from your dad? What if that empowering, strengthening, life-giving deposit was never transferred from your father to you? Are you forever destined to a sense of stifling inadequacy in the core of your being? I don’t believe so.

Today I stand aligned with your spirit and affirm that you are a son of the best Dad ever.

And He as your Father makes you enough. 

Don’t let another day go by where you believe the lie that you don’t have what it takes to be a great dad. With God pouring His resources of “enoughness” into your depths, you will have enough to pour into your daughter (and son).

Humbly ask for supernatural help while being open to letting your Heavenly Father fill you with His wisdom, insight, strength, courage, tenacity, tenderness, compassion, and on it goes. God says if we ask for wisdom, He’ll give it. No questions asked, no groveling, no earning His favor. It’s simply His gift.

As you pray this prayer, I guarantee that if you sit in stillness and listen, God will download ideas that will lead you to connect with the unique needs of your daughter. Spend at least five minutes waiting for the download to come, and then immediately act upon the things God tells you in order to reach the heart of your girl. You might think you’re fabricating things as you listen, but it will get much easier to trust God’s voice when you put into action the ideas He gives you and see that they work.

So even if you don’t hear it enough: You matter. And every day that you give of yourself to your daughter is a day that changes her life…and yours.

Dad, I wish you the happiest Father’s Day ever and I CELEBRATE YOU as you continue to embrace the most important job you’ll ever have: being a dad.

Need a Father’s Day Gift Idea?

Michelle Watson

Hi Friends…

If you’re like me, sometimes you don’t exactly know what to get your dad for Father’s Day. So I’m coming to your rescue with a gift idea that keeps on giving!

 Why not order my book for yourself---or to give out as a gift to any dad of a daughter you know who could use a little extra support when it comes to successfully navigating the path to his daughter’s heart.

To make it even easier, simply click the button to grab your copy of “Dad, Here’s What I Really Need from You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart”.

Thanks for helping me spread the word about my book as my hope is that it will continue to be a helpful resource for fathers who are ready to engage their daughter’s hearts in more proactive and intentional ways than ever before.

Happy Father’s Day to each of you dads, and I am always here cheering you on!

 Big hugs, Michelle

DAD BOOT CAMP: Five Bold Ideas For Dads To Engage Their Daughter's Hearts

Michelle Watson

I’ve heard it said that men do best when they’re challenged. And not just challenged to do something possible, but something bigger and harder than they could ever imagine doing.

Case in point: I watched a documentary awhile back where men voluntarily attended a week of grueling military boot camp, paying large sums of money to be pushed past their limits. Why did they do it? They said it was simply to prove that they could.

The only way these guys knew if they were capable of surviving the challenge was to make a commitment to go the distance no matter how hard it was along the way. After hearing this story, it brought home the truth that brave and bold go hand in hand.

If you are going to step into your daughter’s life in a braver and bolder way than ever before, you will most likely be doing things you never thought possible, things that might even make you feel a bit uncomfortable or less than competent. But I know you’ll do whatever it takes to reach her heart, even if it’s out of your comfort zone. 

To reach that goal, may I suggest a five-step path for boldly engaging your daughter's heart in order to ensure your rank among other courageous, risk-taking, valiant dads who are stepping up to put their love for their daughters into action.  

For easier recall, let’s use your hand as a template for these five things:

 1. Thumb

  • According to relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, a healthy relationship needs five deposits to every one withdrawal, so make sure to build her up five times more than you correct her.

  • Ask yourself: How often do I communicate my disapproval with a "thumbs down" in contrast to the times I give her a “thumbs up” to celebrate her successes?

2.   Pointer finger

  • Point her in the right direction by the choices you make, even behind closed doors.

  • Be aware that she will follow after you because she longs for your approval.

  • Ask yourself: By the way I live my life, in what direction am I pointing her?

  • 3,  Middle finger

  • Need I say more?! But what if your tallest finger became your reminder not to “give your daughter the finger” in moments of anger and rage, but instead to stand tall with personal integrity by modeling the very attributes you want her to embody?

  • Ask yourself: Am I leading with anger or am I treating her in a way that leads her to stand tall with confidence.

4.  Ring finger

  • This finger is typically reserved for the ring that tells the world she has a forever love.

  • Ask yourself: How have I shown love to my daughter today through my words, attitudes, and actions? (because if you don’t show your love, she won’t know your love. 

5.  Baby finger

  • The most fragile of all the fingers, this one reminds us that a daughter’s vulnerable heart is most beautiful when it is open, which happens naturally when treated with tender loving care.  

  • Ask yourself: Have I responded to her with gentleness and kindness, respect and love today?

 The truth is that a woman with an open heart will not only change the world, but will engage the world in like kind to the way her heart has been engaged. You, dad, have a key role in facilitating that process.

 Let today be the day you push past your limits to boldly engage your daughter’s heart…just to prove that you can!

P.S. If you want to hear more of my heart on the influence of a dad in his daughter’s life, as well as some of my own story, you can listen to a conversation with my friends Leary Gates and Armin Assadi on their BoldIdea Podcast. Enjoy!

The FATHER Formula

Michelle Watson

If I could give you a “1-2-3 Quick Fix Formula” for being the best dad alive, would you want it? Of course you would! It’s human nature to want the fastest, easiest, and most efficient path possible to success.

But when it comes to fathering, it doesn’t quite work that way. It’s the “slow and steady wins the race” pattern that really makes all the difference.

In other words, the most effective fathering tool is simply showing up.

Taking it a step further, I want to assure you that you don’t have to do big, extravagant, out-of-the-ordinary things to be a hero to your daughter. It’s all about being there for her in the day-in-and-day-out routine that matters the most.

If you recall the things your dad did that had the most value to you as a kid, I’m guessing the biggest impacts were often the seemingly small, regular things he did that now bring back the fondest memories---from playing catch or teaching you to ride a bike to letting you barbeque alongside him or raking leaves together. It’s those everyday things that communicated that you were worth his time and effort.

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So what means most to a daughter?

It’s being there to kiss her boo-boo’s (which get harder to make all better the older she gets) and letting her know that you want to understand where she hurts.

It’s about saying “no” to watching the game on television and “yes” to knocking on her door just to hear about her day.

It’s about having breakfast on Saturday mornings while watching cartoons or listening to her favorite music, reading the paper or talking about what interests her…even when it’s not your favorite subject.

It’s being at her track meets to see her win…or lose.

It’s about being willing to sit with her through torrents of tears and biting your tongue when everything inside you wants to give a mini-lesson (a.k.a., a lecture) that says, “I told you so,” or “how many times do you have to do it wrong before you’ll finally get it right?”

It’s about looking at her in the eyes to see her responses to your intensity (namely anger) and being willing to ask forgiveness when you’ve over-reacted and hurt her, thus closing her spirit.

It’s about giving her hugs even when she tells you she’s too old for cuddling…despite the fact that she longs to be close to you and needs to know you cherish her.

It’s about making sure that your job doesn’t consistently take priority over your family while choosing to remember that the greatest legacy you will ever leave is your kids, not your work.

I acknowledge that this fathering thing is not for the faint of heart. Truth be told, it actually would be easier if it wasn’t so daily. And it sure would be easier if your daughter came with a playbook.

But here you are, willing to learn what she needs so that you can give her one of the best gifts ever: your love.

So here is a fathering formula to assist you as you pursue your daughter’s heart, six things she needs from you. Whether you’re a dad who is already dialed-in or a dad who knows there is room for improvement, this provides a way to evaluate where you’re at while developing strategies for “kicking it up a notch” today:

The FATHER Formula is a template for you to gauge where you’re at when it comes to putting your love for your daughter into action. Write and let me know how it goes because I love celebrating with you as I applaud your willingness to make the FIRST move by AFFIRMING and TALKING with your girl, all the while finding the HUMOR in life around you, not taking yourself so seriously, and never giving up as you seek to ENGAGE her heart by communicating encouragement because you REALIZE how much your daughter needs you to be proud of her as you celebrate the uniqueness of who she is.

These six things will dramatically improve, revive, reinforce, and strengthen your relationship with your daughter. It’s all about getting in there and showing up, no special training necessary.

All you have to do is try.

And if you want The FATHER Formula in just twelve short words, here’s my summation: You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to be present.

Transfer of Power

Michelle Watson

You can breathe a sigh of relief because I promise you that this isn’t a political post. I’m only using this concept as a reference point to talk about fathering.

Let me ask you a question: What comes to mind when you read the three words in the title, Transfer of Power?

I’m guessing that your immediate thought ties to a change of position or roles between political leaders or administrative parties. That’s what comes to mind when I hear those words too.

During our recent election season I heard this phrase used repeatedly during the transition that took place in our highest office of government. And because my mind is always thinking about fathers and daughters, I found myself pondering how a similar dynamic happens (or should be happening) in homes when it comes to preparing kids to launch. I’m referencing that time when a daughter (or son) officially heads into adulthood around the age of 18. There really is a transfer of power, especially when she (or he) steps out from under the parental roof.

Since this child-to-adult transition is inevitable, the question for dads is this:

What steps are you taking to prepare your daughter to be independent, confident, and self-assured as she moves into adulthood?

Here’s one way to build a framework that addresses this question as taught to me by a colleague whose insight was honed from raising two children, as well as hosting 100 foster teenagers.

“By the age of 18, most kids are making the bulk of their own decisions, so why not let them make 50% of their own decisions by the time they’re nine years old. Then when they’re 14 or 15, let 75% of their decisions be their own. You want to let them succeed and fail while you as the parent are there to help them work through it.”

When I first heard this idea, it seemed ludicrous! Who lets their nine year old make 50% of their own decisions? Yet as I’ve given it more thought, I can see the wisdom in it.

The more a child is empowered to think for themselves---which includes learning the hard way, making mistakes, falling down and failing, but then getting back up while having parental support---the more empowered she (or he) will be to carry themselves in a similar way outside the home.   

And what dad doesn’t want his little girl to be strong and assertive, to be one who doesn’t follow the crowd but stands on her own two feet while thinking for herself?

Yet as good as all of that sounds in theory, remember that if you want your daughter to embody those qualities outside your home, she’s going to have to learn how to use those skills inside your home. In other words, your home is her training ground. And you, Dad, can support her process of transition into adulthood long before the day of her actual launch while strategically enhancing her level of success just by the way you interact with her every day until then.

I am keeping my promise for this not be a political post, yet feel compelled to highlight something I noticed between our outgoing and incoming presidents that recently impressed me. Regardless of which side of the political aisle you sit on, I believe this story holds a lesson that fathers can take to heart when it comes to preparing their daughters to leave home.

I saw former President Obama on the news last week, showing up after a long period of virtual obscurity. I’m guessing that most everyone (including me) expected him to finally weigh in on President Trump’s first 100 days in office, but instead he said something that I found surprisingly refreshing. He said that former President George Bush refrained from ever publicly criticizing him after leaving office and now he was going to do the same. I liked that. For once it meant that I didn’t have to tense my emotional muscles and brace for a televised verbal assault.

Here’s how Globe Columnist Jeff Jacoby put it:

“Obama has the same right as any American to speak his mind in public. Yet it’s a right he should refrain from exercising when it comes to his successor. In the modern era, most former presidents have taken pains not to openly criticize or second-guess those who succeed them in office. That reticence is commendable.”

Perhaps in the midst of all the recent political insanity there is something to be gained from observing these two powerful leaders. They no doubt disagree on a majority of issues yet have found a way to honor each other in this transition process regardless of their differing beliefs and convictions.  

Dads, how might you do the same with your daughter as she leaves (or prepares to leave) your home and step into adulthood?

Can you refrain from openly criticizing and second-guessing her decisions, especially those that are different from yours?

Can you give her grace to wrestle through questions and boundaries, relationships and choices while allowing her the freedom to make mistakes while always letting her know she is loved by you no matter what?

Can you opt not to show negative facial expressions when she tells you of a choice she’s made that you wouldn’t make or disagree with?

Can you pace with her process while matching your responses to her level of maturity?

Can you affirm those things she’s doing well rather than focusing primarily on areas of defeat?

Can you listen in such a way that she will keep opening up to you rather than shutting you out because she feels your disapproval?

If your daughter is nearing the age where she is ready to be launched, may I suggest three questions that you can ask her today:

  1. How can I best stand with you in ways that make you feel encouraged, supported, and let you know that I’m on your side--especially as you prepare to leave home?
     

  2. Is there anything I’m doing, saying, or implying that makes you feel that I don’t want you to succeed or don’t want you to leave the nest?
     

  3. What are you most scared about as you think ahead to being away from home and what can I do to help you navigate that challenge?

I know you want your daughter to succeed. You want to save her from heartache and regret. That’s why you sometimes want to step in and take over. I understand that. But that’s when it may be time to take to heart the words of Robert F. Kennedy, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” It seems to be part of the process for us all, doesn’t it?

So, what can you do to create a peaceful transfer of power with your daughter?

  • Be the safe place where she can land when she falls.

  • Make sure not to shame her in her process of learning.

  • Reflect back on your bumpy road to maturity.

  • When you think you can’t be any more patient, dig even deeper.

  • Pray for God to give you grace to stay calm while guiding her.

  • Remove all harshness and anger from your communication style.

  • Know that she won’t do things your way and that’s okay.

  • Remember that she’ll be more open to your opinion if she asks for it.

  • Listen twice as much as you talk.

  • Daily communicate love for who she is regardless of what she does or doesn’t do.

  • Remind her that her uniqueness will leave a mark on the world as she steps out and uses her gifts to impact others.

Dad, I know that your heart will ache as your daughter leaves the nest, but as you prepare her for the future, rest assured that the transfer of power from you to her will be stronger, healthier, and more peaceful if she has your support.

Let her know today that you are cheering her on as she steps forward into the next season of her life!

When Your Daughter Doesn't Get a Ring by Spring

Michelle Watson

I don't know if it's something in the air lately or if it's just the typical awakening that happens after a long winter, but suffice it to say that I’ve had more talks recently with women about their singleness than I’ve had in the entire past year combined!

Maybe it’s tied to the colorful spring blossoms magically popping up from the ground that are activating the not-far-from-the-surface desire in women to see love blossom for them in a similar way. All I know is that regardless of the impetus, there are a lot of women with aching hearts due to feeling alone now that spring has sprung.

If you could sit where I sit, you would see and hear passionate women with incredible gifts and amazing dreams who don’t feel fully alive or empowered to reach toward those dreams due to the fact that they are single. You heard me right; there are myriads of women who are blocked and stuck and stalled out in their life pursuits all because they don’t have guy pursuits in the works.

Just this past week an adorable 16-year old, with tears streaming down her cheeks, told me about her struggle with not having a boyfriend while most of her friends are coupled, leaving her to conclude that she’s not thin enough to attract a guy. In another conversation, a 33-year old successful career woman with current job promotion potential expressed her hypothesis that there must be some looming deficits that keeps men from pursuing her. She shared how hard it is when those first dates repeatedly fail to turn into second dates, leading her to believe she’s undesirable and not worth the effort.

You see, we as women most often conclude that there is something lacking in us when we’re not the one being chosen. Rarely do we think there’s something wrong with the guy.

I know too many women--from their teens on up--who are less than enthusiastic about the incredible opportunities directly in front of them and instead are fixated on the one thing they don't have: a boyfriend. And it really doesn’t help when the questions keep coming by well-meaning inquirers that focus primarily on our dating lives as opposed to other aspects of our existence.

Truth be told, it’s never easy to repeatedly report that there’s not much happening in the romance department.

To make matters worse (and I speak from years of experience on this one), although we love attending wedding showers for our girlfriends and are honored to stand next to them as a bridesmaid when they enter into holy matrimony, there’s a bittersweet reality that accompanies these shindigs.

As single women we always secretly wonder if our forever soul mate might be waiting for us at these events, especially at weddings. Maybe he’ll be standing on the groom’s side of the platform and we’ll unintentionally exchange glances, only then to have the matchup seem obvious as we exit, walking down the aisle, arm in arm (because the bride made sure that we were paired up). Or we dream about Mr. Right possibly being at the reception where we’ll inadvertently bump into each other on the dance floor and sparks will instantaneously fly. And on it goes.

We can’t help but wonder if our forever story is waiting to be written at these celebrations. Try as we might not to think ahead, the whole idea of longing for a guy to notice us and choose us so that our fairy tale can begin seems to be constantly present (even though we rarely admit it publicly). Dreaming and wishing and hoping is half the fun…until nothing happens…again.

Someone told me this week that she and her mom agree that I’m the most vibrant single woman they know. As nice as that was to hear, my immediate thought was: Why aren’t there more women who are thriving in their singleness?

Dads, I believe you are more of a solution to the problem than you may realize.

Way too many women are inadvertently believing the lie that they’re not a success unless they’re dating, engaged, or married. That message is being perpetuated…everywhere…and it needs to stop.

Your input into your daughter’s life has the power to carry a counter cultural message---which is that she has vibrancy and purpose beyond her marital status.

Here’s what your single daughter needs to hear from you…today:

  1. She needs to learn what guys think--particularly when it comes to romance. You remember what it was like at the age where your daughter is right now. Tell her where your head was at, especially the part where you were distracted or lazy, selfish or unmotivated to pursue a girl because you knew the work it would take to commit and were focused on figuring out your own life. Let her know it's not something wrong with her that has guys doing what they do.

  2. She needs you to tell her that she’s beautiful and competent, qualified, and “enough” just the way she is, right where she’s at, whether or not there’s a boyfriend in the picture. Your daughter needs more encouragement, more support, and more validation from you in extra measure if she’s single. And even if she’s dating someone or already married, she still will thrive when hearing that you believe in her, are proud of her, and that you love her fully and completely (as a work in progress, just like you).

  3. She needs to hear that even if she never gets married, you are not disappointed in her and are fully proud of her. Focus on highlighting what she is doing, not what she isn’t. And I don’t know why it is, but a lot of women believe that their parents will be happier if we have a husband and give them grandchildren. So when we feel we’ve failed to make our parents happy or proud of us in those areas (even if it’s never been communicated directly), we feel like a failure. The reality is that it’s our “stuff.” But that’s why fathers are so important when it comes to communicating their affirmation of their daughters at every age regardless of marital status.

So what do you say, dads…will you join me in spreading this message to your girls?

Let's join together in emboldening single women to enthusiastically live their lives to the fullest while encouraging them to focus on using their unique gifts to make a difference in the world.

Let's stop asking mostly about their love lives and instead spend more time asking about the latest opportunities they’re embracing and inquire about the new things they’re learning.

Let's deepen our conversations to celebrate and highlight that which single women have to offer their communities rather than carelessly and needlessly directing the conversation to the one area where she may feel less confident or successful.

Let’s celebrate all women, not just those who are dating or married. All of us together have the power to change the way we interact and today is the day to broaden our focus so we’re talking about all things life-breathing, not just about boys and dating.

Dads, before I close, here’s one practical idea for investing in your single daughters in a creative, not-for-any-specific-occasion way:

What if you bought a quality ring for your daughter just to let her know she’s valuable…to you. Then every time she looks at it she will be reminded that you love her and that she’s a treasure.

Can you picture it? Single women across the nation showing off the rings they got this spring…from their dads!
 

P.S. Just in case your daughter might need a little spiritual encouragement, here is one of my favorite passages because it’s all about passionately embracing life as a single woman:

Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy…enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide, lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left;
…Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated…
For your Maker is your bridegroom---the Lord Almighty is his name!

Isaiah 54: 1-5